An investment in our youth….
There were more than eighteen months of planning, many miles traveled and visits to different shows, talking to others and getting ideas before a long time plan was prepared, O. Ray Brown wrote in 1961. It was during the administration of F.W. Burton and J.T. Dunn as Presidents of the Decatur Chamber of Commerce, the fair’s first sponsor, that preparing for the Wise County Youth Fair was done, under the guidance and supervision of O. Ray Brown, Chairman of the Chamber Of Commerce Agriculture Committee. The Wise County Sheriff’s Posse and the Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce soon joined in to sponsor the fair making the Wise County Youth Fair a countywide effort.
The first three years of the Wise County Youth Fair was held outside at the Decatur Baptist College, now the Wise County Heritage Museum. The first was held March 28, 1953. There were 146 entries and the cost for premiums and ribbons was $201.57.
In 1954, there were 900 entries with a total cost of $421.73. This was the first year that the young ladies participated in the show which was shown in the college gymnasium. The Queen contest was held at the Decatur High School auditorium.
In 1955, there were 800 entries at a cost of $665.94. There was a bone-chilling norther which blew in bringing sleet, snow, hail, wind and 24 degree weather. The need for facilities more permanent than a college gymnasium and an unprotected football field was obvious.
On January 29, 1955, Sheriff Rook Ramsey organized the Wise County Sheriff Posse. They quickly went to work and by 1956 had erected the first building, the Quonset hut which cost $1,000. The Youth Fair then moved to the grounds on FM 51 south where the poultry exhibitors used the new building and the FHA and 4-H entries were displayed under the pavilion at the Reunion Grounds. Unfortunately the livestock were still shown outside. There were 1,116 entries at a total cost of $661.30.
In 1958, the first auction to raise funds to construct a barn to house the dairy cattle was held. It raised $7,232.76 and the barn cost was $6,487.76. In fact, it was built on faith and confidence that the farmers, ranchers, business and professional men and women of Wise County would rally to such a program. A second auction was held April 3, 1959 to raise money for a sale and show barn, as well as a building for sheep and swine. In 1963, another auction was held along with cash donations to build the Women’s Building.
By 1965, the annual event was being billed as ―The Largest Youth Fair in the State.
The success of the fair can be contributed to the loyal and faithful FFA, FCCLA, 4-H leaders and teachers, those donating awards, buyers at the auction and the many untiring volunteer workers throughout the county and especially the large number of youth who participate each year.
WHEN YOU ASSIST WITH THE YOUTH FAIR, YOU MAKE AN INVESTMENT IN YOUTH WHICH CANNOT BE VALUED IN DOLLARS AND CENTS.
- O. Ray Brown, Father of the Youth Fair
Paul Tapp, General Superintendent
O Ray Brown, General Superintendent
Henry Kirk, General Superintendent
Sam Renshaw, General Superintendent
Kenneth Denmark, General Superintendent
Bill Thane, General Superintendent
Charles Branson, Chairman
Charles Wilhite, Chairman
Donnie Parker, Chairman
Wayne Long, Chairman
Eddie Mcdonald, Chairman
Bill Hand, Chairman
Ed Sipes, President
Lowell Hughes, President
Ed Sipes, President
James Hubbard, President
Evan Culpepper, President
Tim Fletcher, President